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Bluefin bite continues to improve as inshore fishing heats up.

What a Croaker!

(left): A solid sheephead caught from the half-day boat Daily Double as our coastal fishing heats up.
(right): Inga Seelicke with her massive 30-inch spotfin croaker caught using clams for bait while fishing the beach in Santa Rosaliita, Baja California, Mexico.
(left): A solid sheephead caught from the half-day boat Daily Double as our coastal fishing heats up.
(right): Inga Seelicke with her massive 30-inch spotfin croaker caught using clams for bait while fishing the beach in Santa Rosaliita, Baja California, Mexico.

Dock Totals 5/5– 5/11: 1461 anglers aboard 71 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 1 barracuda, 584 bluefin tuna (up to 200 pounds), 70 bocaccio, 243 calico bass, 4 lingcod, 3069 rockfish, 90 sanddab, 53 sand bass, 150 sculpin, 51 sheephead, 511 whitefish, 1 white seabass, and 66 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As the bluefin bite improved this week, angler counts edged upward, and more boats got out to the grounds. There were plenty of larger fish in the mixed schools to 200 pounds, so the hook-to-land ratio was not great, but anglers put the wood to them and managed to get plenty of fish to the gaff. With more anglers and trips, however, rockfish numbers dropped a bit as more captains opted to stick to the hunt for bluefin rather than peel off to a high spot when there were few bluefin biting. 

Most of the time, a call like that is made by a vote; if the  primary target is not cooperating, captains will often get on the PA and ask if folks would rather move and change targeted species. Conversely, if the boat is limited on bluefin and there is still plenty of time left for the schedule, they will just say so and go — as in, “Wind ‘em up folks, we’re full up” — and move to target another species. So, the lower numbers in rockfish and lingcod indicates a better bite, though one that was not wide open enough to load up on both tuna and bottom fish. 

Over the past month during the lull in the bluefin bite, much of the rockfish and lingcod count came from 1.5-day and longer trips that were initially targeting tuna. This explains the drop in yellowtail this week, as most of the yellowtail caught in previous weeks were by boats bailing from the bluefin grounds after no action and moving more toward coastal Baja in search of paddies holding yellows. There is still a fairly solid bite on yellowtail for the pangeros working out of Ensenada south to San Quintin. 

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Hopefully, the trend of more willing bluefin will continue as they move up the line, feeding on anchovy. I believe a part of the reason for the recent lull was fish feeding deep due to a relative lack of fin bait in the upper water column, and the boats just couldn’t get them to rise. Now, with better signs of bait along the coast, the fish are returning to the upper water column to feed, and the results are in the counts.

Half-day boats are also seeing an influx of better quality bait, and that has resulted in better fishing off the San Diego coast. As the Daily Double reported on May 10, “A little cleaner and warmer water, better current and a better mix of anchovies today. It was awesome. Really fun fishing. I took a bus man's holiday and was glad to be on the boat. I'm not sure what our final count was. There were 10 passengers with easy two-fish limits of sheephead up to 10 pounds. I'm sure there were 20 legal calico bass and plenty of shorts. Another 16 sand bass on top of that, plus some rockfish and sculpin. Stop waiting, the fish are biting.” With good conditions offshore and along the coast, bait filling in, and willing biters, it was a great week for the fleet.

Given that last week culminated in two Mother’s Days (May 10 in Mexico and May 12 in the US) and was highlighted by a spectacular Aurora Borealis light show seen all the way south through Baja, I have to mention a particular catch by a friend here in Baja. Inga Seelicke, along with her husband Bill and son Christian, took a road trip from San Quintin to Santa Rosaliita to check out the surf fishing there. Santa Rosaliita is on the Pacific Coast north of Guererro Negro, about due west from Bahia de Los Angeles on the opposite side of the peninsula. 

Santa Rosaliita was a part of the failed Escalera Nautica (sea ladder) project, a massive undertaking that would have included a harbor and haul-out lift for sailors so they could move boats from the Pacific side of Baja to the Sea of Cortez mid-peninsula. The project had many other aspects, including various small port installations at some of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. But the main component was the harbor/lift at Santa Rosaliita. After the infrastructure was in — including paved road from the main highway and power lines — and the new harbor and facilities completed, a storm swell filled in the harbor with sand, making it unusable. The entire project was scrapped.  

Improved access due to the Escalera Nautica project meant that surf anglers, especially, became more interested in the excellent fishing along that once-isolated section of coast. Reports of multitudes of California corbina and large spotfin croaker began coming in, and the halibut fishing was very good as well. This brings us back to Inga. At 82, the elder Seelickes love surf fishing, and can often be seen here near Cielito Lindo (where they are building a home), riding their quads along with their son down the beach to find for clams for bait and a decent break to fish. As the bite has been a bit slow on the beach here, feisty Inga said — demanded rather — “Load up the truck, we’re going south to fish!” Christian dutifully did so, and off they went. It is a relatively smooth four-hour trip from San Quintin, so maybe nine hours from the border. They made the trip without incident, fished for the day, and came back the next afternoon. When I went by to visit, Christian grabbed his kill bag and said, “Look what mom caught!” What I saw was the largest spotfin croaker I have ever seen — in person or in a photo. I measured the gutted and iced fish just to get an idea, and it was 30 inches long on the nose We didn’t weigh it, but the girth at the shoulders, the thickest part of the body behind the head, was just under 20 inches, so probably around 13 to 15-pounds. I was stunned. Upon checking, I found that the IGFA all-tackle world record for the spotfin croaker is 9-pounds, 14 oz, and the largest recorded specimen was 27 inches long and weighed 10.5 pounds. As it was too late to weigh on an official IGFA scale and submit, it will have to just stand as a phenomenal ‘unofficial’ catch by one very spry angler. Kudos Inga, that was one hell of a fish! Happy belated Mother’s Day! They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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(left): A solid sheephead caught from the half-day boat Daily Double as our coastal fishing heats up.
(right): Inga Seelicke with her massive 30-inch spotfin croaker caught using clams for bait while fishing the beach in Santa Rosaliita, Baja California, Mexico.
(left): A solid sheephead caught from the half-day boat Daily Double as our coastal fishing heats up.
(right): Inga Seelicke with her massive 30-inch spotfin croaker caught using clams for bait while fishing the beach in Santa Rosaliita, Baja California, Mexico.

Dock Totals 5/5– 5/11: 1461 anglers aboard 71 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 1 barracuda, 584 bluefin tuna (up to 200 pounds), 70 bocaccio, 243 calico bass, 4 lingcod, 3069 rockfish, 90 sanddab, 53 sand bass, 150 sculpin, 51 sheephead, 511 whitefish, 1 white seabass, and 66 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As the bluefin bite improved this week, angler counts edged upward, and more boats got out to the grounds. There were plenty of larger fish in the mixed schools to 200 pounds, so the hook-to-land ratio was not great, but anglers put the wood to them and managed to get plenty of fish to the gaff. With more anglers and trips, however, rockfish numbers dropped a bit as more captains opted to stick to the hunt for bluefin rather than peel off to a high spot when there were few bluefin biting. 

Most of the time, a call like that is made by a vote; if the  primary target is not cooperating, captains will often get on the PA and ask if folks would rather move and change targeted species. Conversely, if the boat is limited on bluefin and there is still plenty of time left for the schedule, they will just say so and go — as in, “Wind ‘em up folks, we’re full up” — and move to target another species. So, the lower numbers in rockfish and lingcod indicates a better bite, though one that was not wide open enough to load up on both tuna and bottom fish. 

Over the past month during the lull in the bluefin bite, much of the rockfish and lingcod count came from 1.5-day and longer trips that were initially targeting tuna. This explains the drop in yellowtail this week, as most of the yellowtail caught in previous weeks were by boats bailing from the bluefin grounds after no action and moving more toward coastal Baja in search of paddies holding yellows. There is still a fairly solid bite on yellowtail for the pangeros working out of Ensenada south to San Quintin. 

Sponsored
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Hopefully, the trend of more willing bluefin will continue as they move up the line, feeding on anchovy. I believe a part of the reason for the recent lull was fish feeding deep due to a relative lack of fin bait in the upper water column, and the boats just couldn’t get them to rise. Now, with better signs of bait along the coast, the fish are returning to the upper water column to feed, and the results are in the counts.

Half-day boats are also seeing an influx of better quality bait, and that has resulted in better fishing off the San Diego coast. As the Daily Double reported on May 10, “A little cleaner and warmer water, better current and a better mix of anchovies today. It was awesome. Really fun fishing. I took a bus man's holiday and was glad to be on the boat. I'm not sure what our final count was. There were 10 passengers with easy two-fish limits of sheephead up to 10 pounds. I'm sure there were 20 legal calico bass and plenty of shorts. Another 16 sand bass on top of that, plus some rockfish and sculpin. Stop waiting, the fish are biting.” With good conditions offshore and along the coast, bait filling in, and willing biters, it was a great week for the fleet.

Given that last week culminated in two Mother’s Days (May 10 in Mexico and May 12 in the US) and was highlighted by a spectacular Aurora Borealis light show seen all the way south through Baja, I have to mention a particular catch by a friend here in Baja. Inga Seelicke, along with her husband Bill and son Christian, took a road trip from San Quintin to Santa Rosaliita to check out the surf fishing there. Santa Rosaliita is on the Pacific Coast north of Guererro Negro, about due west from Bahia de Los Angeles on the opposite side of the peninsula. 

Santa Rosaliita was a part of the failed Escalera Nautica (sea ladder) project, a massive undertaking that would have included a harbor and haul-out lift for sailors so they could move boats from the Pacific side of Baja to the Sea of Cortez mid-peninsula. The project had many other aspects, including various small port installations at some of the islands in the Sea of Cortez. But the main component was the harbor/lift at Santa Rosaliita. After the infrastructure was in — including paved road from the main highway and power lines — and the new harbor and facilities completed, a storm swell filled in the harbor with sand, making it unusable. The entire project was scrapped.  

Improved access due to the Escalera Nautica project meant that surf anglers, especially, became more interested in the excellent fishing along that once-isolated section of coast. Reports of multitudes of California corbina and large spotfin croaker began coming in, and the halibut fishing was very good as well. This brings us back to Inga. At 82, the elder Seelickes love surf fishing, and can often be seen here near Cielito Lindo (where they are building a home), riding their quads along with their son down the beach to find for clams for bait and a decent break to fish. As the bite has been a bit slow on the beach here, feisty Inga said — demanded rather — “Load up the truck, we’re going south to fish!” Christian dutifully did so, and off they went. It is a relatively smooth four-hour trip from San Quintin, so maybe nine hours from the border. They made the trip without incident, fished for the day, and came back the next afternoon. When I went by to visit, Christian grabbed his kill bag and said, “Look what mom caught!” What I saw was the largest spotfin croaker I have ever seen — in person or in a photo. I measured the gutted and iced fish just to get an idea, and it was 30 inches long on the nose We didn’t weigh it, but the girth at the shoulders, the thickest part of the body behind the head, was just under 20 inches, so probably around 13 to 15-pounds. I was stunned. Upon checking, I found that the IGFA all-tackle world record for the spotfin croaker is 9-pounds, 14 oz, and the largest recorded specimen was 27 inches long and weighed 10.5 pounds. As it was too late to weigh on an official IGFA scale and submit, it will have to just stand as a phenomenal ‘unofficial’ catch by one very spry angler. Kudos Inga, that was one hell of a fish! Happy belated Mother’s Day! They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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